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by Tim Regan — January 3, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

A fan of Cherrydale’s House of Steep is buying the business to keep it from closing.

Lyndsey DePalma, who founded the tea house and “foot sanctuary”at 3800 Lee Highway, announced last month she planned to close the business and “lovingly serve our last cup of tea” by Dec. 30.

Though the business did close its doors last weekend, it’s only temporary thanks to longtime House of Steep customer and Arlington business owner Patrick Vaughan.

Vaughan, a regular runner of ultramarathons, said he was in the middle of a reflexology and foot massage session when he heard that the store was slated to shutter.

“I was really saddened when I heard it was going to close,” he recalled.

Then, he had an idea: Why not see if he could buy the business to keep it afloat? So, Vaughan called up DePalma, and within just 12 hours, they shook hands on a deal.

“I’ve wanted to get into a health and bodywork kind of business for a long time,” Vaughan said. “It just clicked for me. It just really made sense.”

For DePalma, the sale represents a kind of “fairytale ending.”

“I think he’s willing to take his ideas the distance,” she said. “He seems very passionate to begin with and willing to follow through.”

Although Vaughan said he doesn’t want to change the company’s atmosphere or culture, he does plan to add some new offerings and services to the menu.

“I’d like to be able to get beyond foot massage into full-body massage,” said Vaughan, who also owns a local information technology business. “I’m definitely looking to expand the techniques of massage offerings.”

House of Steep is scheduled to reopen Jan. 9.

by Katie Pyzyk — December 29, 2016 at 10:15 am 0

Police car (file photo)Police are investigating a reported armed robbery that prompted a lot of law enforcement activity in the Cherrydale neighborhood early Wednesday morning.

Arlington County police officers responded to the 1500 block of N. Quincy Street around 12:30 a.m. after two male suspects reportedly approached three victims who had been walking in the area.

One of the suspects brandished a gun and demanded the victims’ belongings, according to police.

Police say the suspects took off on foot so they brought in an ACPD K-9 unit to track them. Fairfax County Police assisted with the search by sending a helicopter.

The suspects were not apprehended and the investigation is ongoing. From an ACPD crime report:

ARMED ROBBERY, 1500 block of N. Quincy Street. At approximately 12:25 a.m. on December 28, officers responded to the report of an armed robbery. Three victims were walking in the area when they were approached from behind by two male suspects. One of the suspects brandished a firearm and demanded the victims’ belongings. The suspects then fled the scene on foot in an unknown direction. A K9 track and an aerial observation assisted by Fairfax County Police helicopter were negative. The first suspect is described as a black male approximately 6’0″ tall, wearing all black with a black bandana over his face. The second suspect is described as a black male, approximately 5’5″ tall, with a slim build. He was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt. The investigation is ongoing.

by ARLnow.com — December 9, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

(Updated at 3 p.m.) Arlington County is moving forward with construction plans for Stratford Park.

The 3.8 acre park, at 4321 Old Dominion Drive, is located next to the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program building, which will later become a 1,000 seat middle school when H-B moves to Rosslyn in 2019.

The current park has picnic tables, a youth baseball/softball field (which has also been used by adult team sports), two lighted tennis courts, a rectangular field and a lighted basketball court.

The new park, which is in the final design stages and is expected to go out to bid in the first quarter of 2017, will include upgraded fields, courts, landscaping and site furnishings.

Among the planned changes: the new diamond field will be fenced in, with dugouts, batting cages and bleachers added.

While the fence around a soon-to-be-upgraded diamond field in Bluemont Park prompted a neighborhood outcry this fall, since largely resolved by removing portions of the fence, thus far there has been little public protest about the Stratford Park fence.

Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said the field’s primary purpose will be to host organized baseball and softball activities, though other uses will be allowed when the field is not otherwise being used.

“The approved plan does include fence around the diamond field, as the field will primarily be used for diamond sports (permit takes priority),” she told ARLnow.com, via email. “The fence entrances will always be open to allow people access to the area when the field is not in use.”

The parks department sent an email to residents who live near the park last month, updating them on the project’s progress. An excerpt of that email, detailing some of the changes, is below.

Construction of the park upgrades is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2017 and wrap up within the first three months of 2018. The overall design, management and construction budget is $1.7 million.

In early 2015, the County worked with the community to develop a  concept  plan for the site. The  concept plan is a tool to inform the County, APS and the community on how new school access routes and other changes to the school site within the park boundary could impact the plan for park improvements.  DPR worked closely with APS in order to coordinate pedestrian accessibility from the park to the school. In addition, a restroom facility will be provided at the school for park users. DPR may make some minor changes to the concept as final costs for the improvements are determined in order to ensure the project remains within budget.

The approved project scope includes replacing and bringing existing features to current standards and adding new amenities to the park. Below is a breakdown of each one.

Existing to be Replaced:

  • Tennis Courts
  • Basketball Court
  • Court Lighting
  • Diamond Field
  • Backstop
  • Players Benches
  • Parking
  • Fencing (split rail)
  • Stairs and Walkways
  • Seating
  • Trash Receptacles
  • Trees and Shrubs

New to the Park:

  • Drinking Fountain
  • Pedestrian Lighting
  • Dugouts
  • Batting Cages
  • Bleachers
  • Outfield Fence
  • Retaining Walls
  • 50/70 Intermediate (50/70) Diamond Field Layout with Irrigation
  • Additional Trash Receptacles and Seating
  • Picnic Area
  • Storm Water Management Facility
  • Additional Landscaping

by ARLnow.com — December 2, 2016 at 6:15 pm 0

House of Steep, a tea house and “foot sanctuary” in Cherrydale, is closing after four years in business.

The well-reviewed business, at 3800 Lee Highway, is based around a number of relaxing offerings: loose leaf tea, foot soaks, massages and reflexology.

In an email to customers Friday evening, owner Lyndsey DePalma suggested that the store was not sufficiently profitable to justify remaining in business.

“The rewards are wonderful but unfortunately are not enough,” she wrote. The store is set to close on Friday, Dec. 30.

The full letter is below.

To our beautiful, loyal customers –

A deep, Steep thank you for supporting us over the past four years in our vision to spread peace and offer gentle reminders of health and wholeness to our community. Our mission has been successful and the TEAm is celebrating. The rewards are wonderful but unfortunately are not enough to continue on without innovation, which is more than our team has the capacity to do at this time. So effective December 30, 2016, we will lovingly serve our last cup of tea in our retail space.

Steep is a great company with great reviews and a loyal customer base. It’s quite difficult for small retail businesses to succeed in dynamic markets with growing real estate and workforce costs. A huge thank you for helping us defy significant odds in the start-up world and for taking the time to cheer us on along the way. Thank you for becoming our friends and for stopping in to catch up over a comfortable cup. The business has served many and created so many memories with couples first dates, moms spending cherished time with their children (or without), and so many people pausing to take advantage of the moment. Keep doing this!

A sincere thanks to the staff, as well. I don’t know of a more loved business in this area, and this is all thanks to the staff, especially Michael and his leaders who proudly served the mission and set great examples for the staff.

We wanted to give a month to anyone holding gift cards to be able to redeem for goods and services with ease (our reservation policy for foot massage/reflexology is still required). While we will serve our last cup of tea at the end of the month, a few staff members will continue to serve our wholesale accounts, as well as our online store, so you may continue to source our delicious, health-focused tea blends after we close the storefront. And we’ll continue to serve in the hearts and memories of those who appreciated us for the gentle, loving space we provided for so many years. All good things live on and we believe that to be true of Steep.

We hope you’ll come in for one last foot soak, hug, and/or a cup of healthy goodness to help lift your day. You’ve certainly lifted ours over the years.

Steeped in gratitude,
Lyndsey (and the Steep TEAm)

by Adrian Cruz — August 4, 2016 at 3:50 pm 0

A French-inspired home and gifts store in Cherrydale is set to close soon.

La Maison, which opened at 3510 Lee Highway in 2013, will close once owner Jeeun Friel sells the business.

The store sells “everything from candles, totes, jewelry, local art, handmade furniture, pins, just a lot of unique one-of-a-kind things,” Friel said. “That’s what’s kept us interesting for the last three years.”

Friel added that her reason for closing the store is to spend more time with her kids, specifically her youngest son.

“I opened the shop originally because, at the time, my firstborn was three years old and entering preschool so I had a lot of time on my hands and it was kind of a hobby,” she said. “It’s bittersweet because I really created this little place from scratch but I’m happy being home with my baby.”

Friel said the shop could close as early September, as long as someone buys it by then.

“I was hoping by September, but it could be longer,” Friel said. “We don’t have a definite date right now. I still have to run the shop and we’re still running on a daily basis until we figure out what’s going to happen.”

The store will hold sales throughout the rest of the summer to sell off the remaining merchandise, Friel said. At the moment, everything in the store is half off.

by ARLnow.com — July 18, 2016 at 9:45 am 0

A car slammed through the front of the 7-Eleven store at 3901 Lee Highway in Cherrydale Friday night.

The crash happened just before 10 p.m. No injuries were reported.

This morning the large plate glass window shattered by the car was boarded up, awaiting replacement.

by ARLnow.com — June 17, 2016 at 12:10 pm 0

ACFD ambulance / advanced life support paramedic unit (file photo)A woman suffered serious injuries after being struck by a car Friday morning in Cherrydale.

The crash happened around 9:15 a.m. at the intersection of N. Quincy Street and 20th Street N., three blocks south of Lee Highway.

“The pedestrian was conscious and alert on scene and was transported to George Washington University Hospital,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “The cause of the accident is currently under investigation.”

A witness described the incident as a “bad accident” between a car and a pedestrian. Scanner traffic suggested the woman suffered a “critical injury.”

“Lots of blood in the bike lane,” the tipster said.

by Michael Doyle — December 22, 2015 at 1:15 pm 0

Volunteer Firefighter Binns (by Michael Doyle)

Arlington native Marvin Spencer Binns fought his first fire as a teenager. He liked it, a lot. For the next six decades, he kept plugging away.

“I’m a fireman,” Binns said not too long ago.

On Monday morning, the long-time president of the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department passed away following a lengthy illness. He was 80.

Until the end, Binns kept a two-way radio chattering in his room at The Carlin retirement home near Ballston. When he heard an emergency call originating from the 10-story complex, he would march downstairs to aid the arriving Arlington County Fire Department crews.

“I can’t put the gear on, and my knees are terrible,” Binns allowed, “but I can still go and do things.”

Binns’ remarkably durable volunteer career earned him a unique reputation. Tellingly, in a county where relations between volunteer and career firefighters have not always been harmonious, ACFD Honor Guard members stood watch in early March during a public viewing for Binns’ late wife, Betty.

“There are certain volunteer members over the years who have been accepted into the career family,” noted Capt. Randy Higgins, a career Arlington firefighter at Fire Station 2 who has known Binns for many years. “Marvin was always around, pitching in and helping out.”

Born in Arlington on March 20, 1935, Binns attended Washington-Lee High School and, later, vocational school in Manassas. By the time he was 16 or so, he was starting to hang out at the Cherrydale station, home to the county’s oldest volunteer fire organization.

The two-story, red-brick station dedicated in 1920 held multiple attractions for Binns. Some nights, he would just sit outside while music floated down from the weekly dances held in the upstairs social hall. Binns would also listen to the career and volunteer firemen chewing the fat while awaiting a summons.

Though Arlington County had initiated a career fire department in 1940, volunteers still responded to emergencies, sometimes informally. When he was 16 and still too young to join, Binns drove himself to Rosslyn on the bitterly cold night of Dec. 30, 1951 to pitch in on the fight against a devastating fire at the Murphy & Ames lumber yard.

“I went to a lot of fires,” Binns recalled, “and I wasn’t even a member of the fire department yet.”

When he turned 18, Binns paid $5 and formally joined the Cherrydale department. There was no particular school to attend; the learning was hands-on and experiential. At the training academy, officers would set fire to hay bales or old tires and the men would enter the burn house with only rudimentary protection.

“You couldn’t see a foot in front of you, it was so black,” Binns recalled.

Binns moved into the Cherrydale fire station for a time before he joined the Navy in 1957 and served as a baker aboard the USS Norfolk, a destroyer leader.

It wasn’t always sweetness and light. Tensions sometimes arose between the career guys and volunteers. The volunteer department sometimes struggled financially or administratively; the old fire station, some neighbors occasionally opined, could attract rowdies. Sometime in 1967, Cherrydale historian Kathryn Holt Springston recounted in her history of the Cherrydale department that Arlington officials received complaints that firefighters were whistling at women passing by.

“All were asked to stop such practices,” Springston reported.

Binns could spin a yarn; he had plenty of stories from his decades of service. The way the old siren would wail, summoning volunteers. The winter calls that would leave the firefighters covered in ice. The two dead sisters he helped carry out of the house near Washington Golf and Country Club; some bad, bad car accidents.

The incomparable fellowship.

“I wanted to protect the county,” Binns said; besides, he added, “to me, it was fun. I mean, I enjoyed it. You never knew when you got on the scene what you were going to find. Going down the road, in your mind, you’d be thinking what you were going to run into.”

Binns is survived by five children, 27 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great-grandchildren. A daughter pre-deceased him.

Photo and story by Michael Doyle, who is also a member of the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department. Editor’s note: the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department provides support services for the professional firefighters and EMTs in the Arlington County Fire Department.

by ARLnow.com — December 2, 2015 at 5:05 pm 0

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Jane, an Arlington resident who works in Cherrydale.

It is in response to our article on the opening of a pop-up vintage gift shop in the Cherrydale storefront that was once slated to become a gun store.

My coworkers and myself are very disappointed by your coverage of the Pop Vintage store in Cherrydale.

Was it really necessary to drag up all the gun store dirt? All that did was get your regulars stirred up and writing their usual insane comments.

I was there when Olympia, the owner of the store, was reading their responses.

If you could have seen the look on her face when she read what passes for witticisms among the commenters, it would have broken your collective hearts.

Today there is another mass shooting in California.

The world is getting scarier day by day.

Responsible journalism has a responsibility to report the news as it is happening good and bad, I realize this.

And if it hadn’t been for your breaking news on the gun store it might be our neighbor today.

But to to unnecessarily dig up the dirt on days gone by? Did you think Arlington residents wouldn’t be happy to hear of a new fun business without a splash of controversy?

Maybe in the spirit of the season and humanity you could focus on the positive things that are happening around us.

Jane

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected] Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

by Jennifer Currier — December 1, 2015 at 11:30 am 0

A long-vacant Cherrydale strip mall storefront, once slated to become a gun store, has been brought to life as a pop-up vintage gift shop.

NOVA Firearms cancelled its lease and its plans to add a location at 2105 N. Pollard Street this summer, following an uproar that pitted concerned residents against both local and national gun enthusiasts.

This holiday season, however, what was once an ideological battleground is now a temporary shop.

POP Vintage opened this past Friday as a vintage shop, featuring collected, donated, estate sale and consigned items, ranging in price from $2 to $20,000. It will be open every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. now until Christmas Eve.

“This is a place where people can sell, barter and trade their items openly and safely, they just have to do it by Christmas,” owner Olympia Hantzopoulos said.

The store is the Rosslyn resident’s first time operating a pop-up. It’s also her first time dealing with a space with such a heated history.

Hantzopoulos said she doesn’t go a day without hearing about what the store could’ve been.

“It was such a difficult issue for both sides,” she said. “Just this Saturday two women got in an argument in the store, which was full of customers, disagreeing over whether this space should be a gun store or not.”

Despite some leftover bitterness from the gun store debate, it hasn’t stopped customers from shopping. Hantzopoulos said her first weekend open was quite busy and the experience has been a positive one so far.

“I’m overwhelmed by the community support,” she said. “I think being here and having something here is doing a lot of good for the neighborhood.”

This also isn’t Hantzopoulos’ first time working with vintage and collectible items. She also owns Miracles in the City, a hair salon in Rosslyn that’s been open for nearly 20 years. The salon also has a small boutique where Hantzopoulos sells vintage jewelry, and all profits from jewelry sales are donated to charity.

She’s adopted the same charitable model for POP Vintage — any proceeds taken in beyond what’s needed to pay the lease will be donated to charities that support women and children in the United States and around the world.

One organization Hantzopoulos plans to support sends donations to an orphanage in Afghanistan, and another provides school supplies for local students. Hantzopoulos said helping in any way she can has always been a priority.

“Thinking about the reality of how little some people have just makes me miserable,” she said. “But you can’t dwell on that, you have to just do what you can do and trust it’s helping.”

From jewelry, to paintings by D.C. artists, to chandeliers, to one-of-a-kind rugs handmade in the Middle East, to tea sets and much more, Hantzopoulos has collected enough items to offer a little bit of everything for holiday shoppers. She knows where they came from, who they belonged to and why, in her opinion, they’re valuable.

“That’s the thing about vintage,” she said. “Everything has a story. It just so happens this space does, too.”

by Jennifer Currier — November 18, 2015 at 1:30 pm 0

The Arlington School Board approved the proposed design for the forthcoming Stratford Middle School in Cherrydale at its meeting Monday night.

The project includes an addition to and renovation of the existing building at 4100 N. Vacation Lane. The building is currently home to the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, which will be moving to the new Wilson School in Rosslyn once both projects are complete.

Specific features of the Stratford project include:

  • 1,000-student middle school
  • 35,000 square foot addition, minimum
  • 144 parking spaces
  • One-way driveway connecting N. Vacation Lane and Old Dominion Drive
  • Traffic and safety improvements on N. Vacation Lane
  • Pedestrian crossing on Old Dominion Drive

The approved addition will be built on the west side of the building and is three stories tall. According to a news release, all renovations will keep the historic existing building in tact, including its south facade.

Architects also provided a second driveway option for the school if VDOT does not approve an exit on Old Dominion Drive.

Funding available for the project ranges from $31.3 million to $36.3 million. The School Board is expected to approve a schematic design in February.

The school system has opposed a push by preservationists to designate Stratford a local historic district, saying it would cause delays and drive up costs. In 1959 Stratford became the first public secondary school in Virginia to be racially integrated.

Stratford Middle School is expected to open in Sept. 2019.

Photos via APS/Quinn Evans Architects

by ARLnow.com — October 23, 2015 at 9:00 am 1,143 0

A festive Halloween display outside of a Ballston condominium building

School Bus Cameras Stop Issuing Tickets — The stop arm cameras on Arlington public school buses are no longer sending citations to those who drive by the buses while the stop signs are activated. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring determined that Arlington does not have the legal authority from the General Assembly to issue summonses from school bus cameras by mail. [Washington Post]

Laundry Room Fire at The Shelton — Yesterday around 6 p.m. a dryer in a laundry room at The Shelton apartment building (3125 24th Street S.) in Nauck caught fire. The fire was reportedly controlled by a sprinkler system, but not before filling the third floor of the building with heavy smoke and prompting an evacuation. [Twitter]

Last Weekend for Hudson Trail Outfitters — The local adventure retailer Hudson Trail Outfitters says this will be their last weekend in business. The company, which has a store on Pentagon Row, is offering 50-80 percent off remaining items. [Hudson Trail Outfitters]

Rep. Beyer Wins Spelling Bee — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) won the National Press Club’s annual Politicians vs. Press spelling bee Wednesday night. Beyer won by correctly spelling “apostasy” in round 23. The win keeps the spelling bee title in Virginia, after Sen. Tim Kaine won last year. [Politico]

‘Most Interesting Man in Arlington’ Contest — Don Tito in Clarendon will be hosting its first ever “Most Interesting Man in Arlington” contest Saturday night. Hosted by Mel, of 107.3’s morning show, the contest will judge based on looks and a series of challenges. [Clarendon Nights]

Discover Cherrydale This Weekend — The Cherrydale Business Alliance will hold its second annual “Discover Cherrydale” festival on Sunday afternoon. The event will feature vendor booths, a beer garden, food trucks and various family-friendly activities. [ARLnow Events]

Red Top Given Green Light for Stickers — An Arlington County Board-ordered review of new stickers on the back window of Red Top taxicabs has found no safety hazard. Lou Gatti, a long-time cab driver who is now an industry critic and who was the one who raised concerns, was disappointed by the findings. “There are no checks and balances in this industry, except for me,” Gatti is quoted as saying. “I can’t understand why no one seems to care about the facts and the laws, except me.” [InsideNova]

Blue Line Issues This Morning — A faulty switch near the Pentagon prompted Metro to route Blue Line trains over the Yellow Line bridge for a significant portion of this morning’s rush hour. [Twitter]

by Heather Mongilio — October 20, 2015 at 6:00 pm 1,029 0

A new sushi restaurant has opened on Lee Highway in Cherrydale.

Maneki Neko Express opened six weeks ago in the spot of former Thai restaurant Thai 24 (3813 Lee Highway). The new restaurant will serve both Japanese and Thai food as part of a partnership with the former Thai 24’s owners, said Maneki co-owner KanyaThongprasert.

“Maneki Neko Express will be serving Japanese and Thai food in a cafe-like setting,” the restaurant said on its website.

The Cherrydale restaurant is the Maneki Neko’s second location. Maneki Neko first started in Falls Church about 14 years ago, Thongprasert said, adding the original location only serves Japanese food.

Business at the new restaurant has been ok in the first few weeks,Thongprasert said. Customers from the Falls Church location have followed the company to Arlington, she added.

“They love it. They love the taste,” she said.

The most popular dishes include pad thai and the restaurant’s bento box option, which allows customers to pick items from the sushi bar and the kitchen, such as a California roll and teriyaki chicken.Thongprasert has applied for a liquor license and plans to serve beer, wine and sake on and off the premise.

Maneki Neko Express offers special sushi rolls, such as a Three Amigos roll, which is a roll with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, avocado, jalapeño and spicy mayo. Customers can also choose from daily specials.

One of the specials is a Halloween roll, pumpkin tempura, eel and tobiko, and the restaurant is prepared for the upcoming holiday with ghosts, pumpkins and spiderweb decorations on its windows.

The restaurant serves lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 4-9 p.m. Monday through Friday. On Saturday the restaurant serves lunch from noon to 2 p.m. and dinner from 4-9 p.m. and on Sunday, it is only open for dinner from 4-9 p.m.

by Mariah Joyce — August 11, 2015 at 4:15 pm 3,457 0

Five Points Intersection (Copy)Arlington County is finalizing the design for changes to the historically busy and confusing “Five Points Intersection” in Cherrydale.

The intersection, located near the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department at the confluence of Lee Highway, Old Dominion Drive, N. Quincy Street, Military Road and N. Quebec Street, has long been a source of ire for pedestrians and drivers alike because it can create dangerously complicated traffic patterns.

This frustration increased in 2013 when the county chose to move forward with proposed changes to the intersection as part of the Cherrydale Lee Highway Revitalization Program, over the objections of neighborhood residents. While the changes were intended to improve the intersection for pedestrians in keeping with the program’s goal of a more walkable Cherrydale, residents claimed they made the intersection even worse.

According to a 2014 neighborhood update on the project, some alterations that irked residents, such as guides directing cars to turn left in front of oncoming traffic (known as “puppy paw guides”), have since been removed.

Five-way intersection in CherrydaleHowever, the update claimed the changes were not extensive enough and the way residents turned before, while not a typical traffic pattern, was actually safer and more efficient.

As of now, the county is still moving forward with many of their proposed modifications. According to project manager Elizabeth Diggs, the project design is 90 percent complete and changes will include the installation of wider sidewalks, the addition of bike lanes, reflective crosswalks and handicap ramps, and upgrades to traffic signals, timing and street lights.

Diggs said recommendations from the Virginia Department of Transportation, county staff and an outside consultant were taken into account when finalizing the design. The project webpage says that recommendations from the Cherrydale Listserv and public meetings were also incorporated.

“The intersection improvements are being designed to improve vehicle turning movements and create a safer environment for pedestrian, bicycle and transit users,” said Diggs.

Construction on the project, originally planned for this spring and summer, is now slated to begin this winter.

by Heather Mongilio — July 21, 2015 at 10:30 am 7,176 0

A new restaurant on Lee Highway is looking to serve customers a hug, in the shape of a bowl of ramen.

Gaijin Ramen Shop (3800 Lee Highway) opened its doors last week on Tuesday for its soft opening and already the restaurant has had repeat customers, said co-owner Nicole Mazkour. On Friday, three days after opening, the restaurant had a waitlist of 65 people hoping to try its various  ramen recipes.

The restaurant’s success so far is a bit surprising because it is summer and ramen is a hot soup, Mazkour said. It is also shocking because the Mazkour and co-owner Tuvan Pham have no prior restaurant experience.

“We’ve been best friends, and something we’ve dreamed of independently is owning our own restaurant,” Mazkour said.

The two pulled together their savings to build their restaurant, despite many people telling them they wouldn’t be successful. They originally looked to open in Georgetown but the landlord pulled out at the last minute. When they got the space in Cherrydale, four different construction companies refused the project, Pham said.

“This is our shot. This is our dream,” Mazkour said. “It is literally our skin, bones, sweat and tears. We’re positive that God has helped us.”

The two set out to bring an authentic, friendly ramen experience to Arlington. They traveled to Japan to learn how to make ramen and South Korea to learn the art of making kimchi.

“If you could describe us in one word, it’s passion,” Mazkour said. “That’s all it takes.”

Everything is made fresh at the restaurant, the owners say, and the ramen soup can take eight to 10 hours to make. The owners and their staff hand shuck the corn and peel the fuji apples that go into the ramen broth, and Mazkour said the amount of organic waste they produce from the fresh vegetables and meat is “unbelievable.”

A bowl of ramen costs between $10 and $11, which does not include extra toppings that one can add. Mazkour and Pham said that the soup is a bit expensive, but it’s the best price they could set in order to afford the fresh ingredients and preparation.

The restaurant offers traditional ramen like a miso ramen or spicy miso ramen, but also more creative ones like BBQ chicken ramen. Mazkour said that she hopes to get more even creative and is playing with the idea of a lobster ramen or a kobe beef ramen.

In addition to the ten types of ramen currently served, customers can also purchase chicken, pork or beef  “buns.” Buns are similar to sliders, but the buns are a white, thick and doughy instead of a traditional bread. The restaurant is a family business, with Mazkour’s son making the buns.

Without a financial backer, Mazkour and Pham have been somewhat limited in their operation. They both have full time jobs outside of the restaurant, and can only open from 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. They want to expand the hours, either in the afternoon or late night Friday and Saturday, but they are seeking customer feedback to help them make their decision.

During the restaurant’s soft opening, the two owners want to hear customer feedback. They did a soft opening because they are currently training the staff to make the ramen and they are still hammering out other details.

When hiring, the two owners kept all the staff from the Kite Runner Cafe, which was previously in the spot. The two paid the employees for two months while the restaurant was being built because they knew the staff relied on the paychecks, Pham said.

“We’re not about business,” she said. “We’re about heart.”

They are also still working to accept credit cards and get their liquor license, but they expect to have both in the next few weeks.

The restaurant can seat 44 people and there will be about 17 seats outside as well. Mazkour and Pham want to give the restaurant the kind of friendly feel that they found in Japan, instead of the hip and exclusive feel that some other trendy ramen places have, Mazkour said.

Their light attitude is reflected in the restaurant name. Gaijin in Japanese means foreigner, and neither Mazkour nor Pham are Japanese, but they respect the culture and the food, so the name is a bit of a light-hearted joke.

“[Japanese people] love it,” Pham said.

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